By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor) and JONATHAN SMITH (PSA)
New Zealand’s world No.2 Paul Coll, sporting two gold medals from a successful Commonwealth Games, had high hopes of launching the season with a powerful run of performances in the QTerminals Qatar Classic.
Instead, he crashed out at the first hurdle to Qatar’s world No.44 Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi, who won an epic 94-minute battle 9-11, 11-9, 16-14, 9-11, 11-7 to reach the third round in Doha.
Al Tamimi, who was a doubt ahead of the event due to a potential national service call up, put in an incredible performance on his home court at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex.
The Qatar No.1 pushed Coll hard in the opening game, with his shot-making catching out the No.2 seed and 2021 finalist a number of times in a tight 11-9 defeat.
Al Tamimi brought the home crowd to life in the second game with a brilliant showing as he chalked off Coll’s lead with a hard-fought 11-9 win of his own.
Coll then showed glimpses of the form that took him to world No.1 last season as he opened up an 8-3 lead before an incredible run from Al Tamimi saw the home favourite storm into a 9-8 lead.
No.2 seed Coll fought back and had a game ball at 10-9, only for a high-risk drop from the back to pay off for Al Tamimi, who levelled at 10-10.
In a frenetic ending to the third game, both Al Tamimi and Coll had crucial game balls, with the Qatari eventually converting his third to take a morale-boosting 2-1 lead with a 16-14 win.
Al Tamimi took a 6-3 lead in the fourth game as the crowd sensed a historic upset, only for a revival from Coll, who had struggled for length and with his movement, to take the match into a fifth with another 11-9 win.
Despite Coll taking the first two points of the final game, Al Tamimi continued to look confident, with the home crowd backing him vociferously. The 27-year-old, who balanced his usual high-risk attacking flair with some intelligent court craft, began to pull away and held a commanding advantage with four match balls at 10-6.
Although Coll saved one match ball, he could do nothing about a typically stylish winner from the Qatari, who thumped the glass in joy as he completed the incredible performance with an 11-7 win to huge cheers from the home fans.
After the match, Al Tamimi said: “That’s by far [the result of my career]. I’ve been very close before against the top guys. I always have a lead, but I managed to choke it then.
“I tried not to think about it at all. I was cramping from game three to the fifth in my fingers, and I tried not to show it to Paul.
“I was waiting for the opportunities to go for the shots and when it’s there, that’s the way to beat Paul. I can’t be negative, I had to play my game at the right time and I’m happy with the win.
“I love to play at home. I like to show the young kids here, who come to watch, that nothing is impossible.”
Al Tamimi will have a rest day before playing England’s George Parker, who beat the USA’s Todd Harrity, in the next round.
Victor Crouin continued his terrific start to the season with a 3-1 win over No.7 seed Joel Makin to reach the third round of the Qatar Classic in his first season as a full-time professional.
World No.18 Crouin, who last year balanced his squash career with studying at Harvard University, impressed in reaching the final of last week’s inaugural CIB Zed Squash Open and made a brilliant start to his match today against Makin.
The Frenchman made a rapid start to his match against the World No.7, who enjoyed a 3-0 head-to-head record against Crouin, with an 11-9 win in the first game.
The Welshman, who was runner-up to Coll in the men’s singles at the recent Commonwealth Games, responded well in the second and moved Crouin around the court as he levelled the match with an 11-6 victory.
Makin continued to impress at the beginning of game three as he took a 5-1 lead, before the two players drew level at 8-8. As the game wore on, Makin appeared to be struggling with an injury and Crouin found his mark increasingly frequently to reclaim the lead with an 11-9 win in the third game, before completing the upset with an 11-8 win in the fourth game.
Afterwards, Crouin said: “I came in and just wanted to win one game. I just wanted to win the game and I believed that I could win the match. After winning the first game I knew I could go and get the win. I’m really happy about that.”
Crouin will play England’s Patrick Rooney for a place in the quarter-finals after the World No.23 downed Nathan Lake 3-0 in an all-English affair.
Rooney, the world No. 23, wrapped up the match in half an hour and said: “It couldn’t have gone any better, really. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go because I know he’s a very good player and I know what he’s capable of when he’s on form.
“I came in with 100% concentration and a good game plan, and everything seemed to come off today so I’m happy with that.
“I’ve still got a few of them (fellow countrymen) to beat. I’ve never beaten Nathan before today, never beaten (Adrian) Waller so I’m still trying to beat them all! I rate Nathan very highly, I’ve watched him a lot and I had a game plan ready that came off really well.
“I feel sharp on there and it gives me confidence going into the next round, even though I’m switching courts to the glass. It was great to get through in two 3-0 wins, which shows I’m sharp but fresh.”
Another Englishman, George Parker also progressed into round three of the tournament with an empathetic victory over America’s Todd Harrity.
Also through to the next round is World No.1 Ali Farag, who received a walkover after an injury to Cesar Salazar, and defending champion Diego Elias, who overcame a spirited performance from India’s Saurav Ghosal to progress.
The Peruvian Puma recovered from a shaky start to record an 11-9, 15-17, 11-9, 12-10 win in 75 minutes and go into a third round clash with Switzerland’s Dimitri Steinmann, who came from behind to beat Mexico’s Leonel Cardenas 3-2 in a hotly-contested match.
“I won my biggest title here last year and played one of my best matches of my career [in last year’s final against Coll]. I think I’ve always played great here. I guess I just have to get used to the court again and I’ll be ok,” Elias said.
Mohamed ElShorbagy, now England’s No.1, powered past his Bristol training partner Eain Yow Ng from Malaysia in four games, winning 11-7, 11-8, 4-11, 11-8.
It was all to play for at 7-7 in the fourth game, but ElShorbagy went up a gear to close out a victory which will see him go up against recent CIB Zed Squash Open winner Youssef Soliman for a place in the quarter-finals.
“It’s very tricky to play your first match of the season against someone who knows you very well,” said ElShorbagy.
“We haven’t seen each other play in a very long time. This summer he was in the States training with Shaun Moxham and I was in Prague training with Greg [Gaultier]. For a game and a half I was dominating, I was 8-3 up in the second and then had a complete loss of focus.
“When you lose focus for even a few seconds, the whole match can change. Even though I snuck the second game, I had a really bad start in the third and he knows me very well, he knew how to take advantage. The fourth was very close, and at 7-7 anything could have happened.
“Everything that happened in the match was very positive. I had intensity and I was playing with hunger. The accuracy and my short game weren’t where I wanted them to be, but those things will come when you play more matches. I’m really glad to be through, it’s a great match for me.”
World No. 9 Marwan ElShorbagy required five games in order to overcome England’s Declan James, winning 11-9, 11-13, 7-11, 13-11, 11-6.
ElShorbagy, the tournament’s No. 8 seed, was in control in the first game, but James mounted a strong fightback to move into a 2-1 lead and potentially cause a big upset.
However, ElShorbagy got back on top to force a decider in game five, and a controlled display from the Egyptian helped him through.
“It was good, I’m just happy to get the win in the end,” ElShorbagy said. “I played okay, I thought the squash was good, just mentally I know I lost some focus in the second game. Declan did well to come back in that game.
“Overall I’m happy to get the win, it was more important to win today. It doesn’t matter how I won in the end, I know the elements are there it’s just concentration that’s something I can work on in the next match.
“Declan did well yesterday and I’m really happy for him to see him playing well. I think his last couple of seasons he’s not done what he wanted to do. We all know the level he can play at so I’m really happy to see him beat a top 20 player yesterday and almost beating me today.
“He’s moving well, his shots are there, his accuracy is there, and I hope this is just the start for him and he can keep playing at that level.”
The third round of the QTerminals Qatar Classic is split over today and tomorrow. Play begins today at 15:00 local time (GMT+3), with live streaming available on SQUASHTV.
2022 Men’s QTerminals Qatar Classic, Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, Doha, Qatar.
 Ali Farag (EGY) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX) 3-0: Walkover
Miguel Rodriguez (COL) bt Nicolas Mueller (SUI) 3-0: 13-11, 12-10, 11-8 (48m)
Youssef Soliman (EGY) bt Mathieu Castagnet (FRA) 3-1: 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-5 (73m)
 Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG) bt Eain Yow Ng (MAS) 3-1: 11-7, 11-8, 4-11, 11-8 (51m)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) bt Declan James (ENG) 3-2: 11-9, 11-13, 7-11, 13-11, 11-6 (61m)
Shahjahan Khan (USA) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-1: 11-4, 6-11, 11-7, 11-6 (57m)
Fares Dessouky (EGY) bt Omar Mosaad (EGY) 3-0: 11-9, 11-7, 11-6 (41m)
 Mostafa Asal (EGY) bt Raphael Kandra (GER) 3-0: 11-9, 11-3, 11-4 (35m)
 Diego Elias (PER) bt Saurav Ghosal (IND) 3-1: 11-9, 15-17, 11-9, 12-10 (70m)
Dimitri Steinmann (SUI) bt Leonel Cardenas (MEX) 3-2: 6-11, 11-3, 12-10, 2-11, 11-8 (75m)
Yahya Elnawasany (EGY) bt Karim El Hammamy (EGY) 3-1: 3-11, 13-11, 11-6, 11-9 (66m)
 Tarek Momen (EGY) bt Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-0: 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 (30m)
Victor Crouin (FRA) bt  Joel Makin (WAL) 3-1: 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-8 (64m)
Patrick Rooney (ENG) bt Nathan Lake (ENG) 3-0: 11-2, 11-5, 11-6 (30m)
George Parker (ENG) bt Todd Harrity (USA) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-4 (35m)
Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) bt  Paul Coll (NZL) 3-2: 9-11, 11-9, 16-14, 9-11, 11-7 (94m)
Round Three (top half, September 6):
 Ali Farag (EGY) v Miguel Rodriguez (COL)
Youssef Soliman (EGY) v  Mohamed ElShorbagy (ENG)
 Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY) v Shahjahan Khan (USA)
Fares Dessouky (EGY) v  Mostafa Asal (EGY)
Round Three (bottom half, September 7):
 Diego Elias (PER) v Dimitri Steinmann (SUI)
Yahya Elnawasany (EGY) v  Tarek Momen (EGY)
Victor Crouin (FRA) v Patrick Rooney (ENG)
George Parker (ENG) v Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT)
Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour